The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2

Page 21

The Adulterous Church

     The letter to the church at Thyatira is the central and longest of the seven letters.  There was much to commend in this church, but also a more serious and flagrant sin to be rebuked.  Thyatira was about forty miles east of Pergamos, perhaps the least important of the seven cities politically.  Its main importance was as a trade center, with many trade guilds.  Paul’s convert, Lydia, was a “seller of purple” from Thyatira (Acts 16:14) and possibly could have assisted in the formation of this church.

Revelation 2:18.   And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass.

     The salutation to Thyatira identifies the speaker as the Son of God – the only place in Revelation where He is so called.  He was described initially as “one like unto the Son of man” (Revelation 1:13).  The aspect is awesome – one of offended and angry deity, with burning eyes searching “the reins and hearts” (verse 23) and with trampling feet in burnished brass breaking men like potsherds (verse 27).

Revelation 2:19.   I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.

     Unlike Ephesus, which had left its first love and ceased its first works (verses 4, 5), the later works of Thyatira were more impressive than in its beginning.  A church manifesting much “love and service and faith and patience and good works,” and with these increasing all the time, would seem to be almost an ideal church.  It may be that Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:13-15, 40) had left a lasting mark on the church and its members.  But such attributes, vital as they are, cannot substitute for sound doctrine and godly living, and these were rapidly failing at Thyatira.

Revelation 2:20.   Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

     Ephesus had not been duped by those who falsely called themselves apostles, but Thyaria had actually entrusted a position of teaching leadership to an immoral woman calling herself a prophetess.  Paul had specifically forbidden women to speak in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34, referring especially to the use of supposed supernatural gifts, such as tongues and prophecy) or to teach in such a way as to exercise authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11, 12), and ignoring such instruction had led to a tragic situation at Thyatira.

     Whether Jezebel was the actual or assumed name of this false prophetess or merely a graphic appellation given her by Christ, the spiritual kinship with the Jezebel of old is clearly recognized.  That Jezebel was the cause of a vast turning to “whoredoms and witchcrafts” in Israel in the days of Elijah (2 Kings 9:22) as well as Baal-worshiping idolatry (1 Kings 16:30-33).  This Jezebel had, under the guise of promoting spirituality in the soul, promoted carnality in the life, no doubt stressing “love” while degrading “doctrine” and “separation” (as multitudes of churches do today), and justifying this teaching by asserting she had received it by supernatural revelation.  She had persuaded them there was no need to create an unnecessary antagonism with those around them by refusing to participate in the approved practices of the state system (including even religious prostitution and orgiastic feasting with friends in the temples), since salvation was free and the important matters were love and faith and good works.  Even those in the church who still had not followed her teachings were guilty of “suffering that woman Jezebel.”

Revelation 2:21.   And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

     The Thyatiran “prophetess” had, in some way not stated, actually been made aware of the serious nature of her sin; it was not merely a case of a misguided but sincere woman who thought she was divinely inspired and sharing God’s revelations with the church.  Rather, she knew she was in the wrong, but had deliberately rejected God’s Word and refused to change her mind.  Evidently this was also true of those who had become her followers in the church.  The only remedy was judgment.

Revelation 2:22.   Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

     The pagan rites of the trade guilds at Thyatira involved immoral feasts along with idol worship, under the aegis of the “priestess” or “oracle” of their temple, and her bevy of temple prostitutes.  Jezebel had seemingly led the Thyatiran church into a pseudo-Christian imitation of this system, perhaps ostensibly as a means of more easily winning converts to Christianity.  But this was not only physical adultery but religious adultery and could no longer be tolerated by the true Head of the church.  It is remarkable that similar wicked sophistries have been practiced in one way or another in the name of Christ in many churches and Christian movements over the centuries and are still cropping up frequently today.

     The bed into which Jezebel and her disciples will fall, however, will not be one of orgaiastic abandon, but one of great tribulation.  The same words had been used by Christ long before on the Mount of Olives: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).  The same words are also used in the Book of Revelation to describe a coming time in which great numbers of Christian martyrs will be slain.  “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).  This “great tribulation” will be discussed more fully later, but it should be noted that this particular church, and others like it (or more precisely those people in such churches who are, in effect, followers of the false prophetesses and false prophets – the Nicolaitanes and Balaamites – who have deceived them and led them to deny the truth of Christ and His Word) will indeed experience great tribulation, whether (as will be true of many adulterous churches at the end of the Church Age) they will go through the great tribulation or will experience great tribulation in other ways and times.

Revelation 2:23.   And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

     The children of Jezebel possibly included actual illegitimate children of her promiscuity, but the term more definitely refers to her converts.  As Timothy was a “son” of Paul (1 Timothy 1:2) “in the faith,” so Jezebel had won many to her hedonistic brand of pseudo-Christianity, and they would share with her in the coming tribulation.  To “kill with death” is an idiom denoting sure death by execution.

     The Lord Jesus Christ searches and understands the hearts and secret thoughts of men. He had said: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).  All of the churches (not just Thyatira) must know that Christ will judge such behavior appropriately, when repentance is not forthcoming.

Revelation 2:24.   But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.

     This letter is actually being addressed to the faithful remnant in Thyatira.  Jezebel and her followers are “they,” not “you”; even though they dominate the church, they are not really in the church, as Christ views it, and are destined for destruction in a fast-approaching time of great tribulation.  The Lord now directs his remaining exhortation to those in the church who are faithful to His Word and manifesting so beautifully His will in other ways (verse 19).

     The depths (or “deep things”) of Satan may be contrasted with “the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).  Nicolaitanism had been rejected in Ephesus, countenanced in Pergamos, and indulged in Thyatira.  The pagan mystery religions surrounding the churches did indeed instruct their own “adepts” in many of the deepest secrets of the great satanic conspiracy against God, and the same has been – and still is – true in the various occult religions of the world.  Satan is a bitter enemy of any true church and accomplishes a victory whenever he can corrupt a church in any degree.  But his most satisfying triumphs are when he introduces his own “deep things” into the church instead of the deep things of God.  This he had done so successfully at Thyatira that the godly remnant there was helpless to combat it.  It must be expunged by Christ Himself.  In the meantime, the true church there must simply wait for Him.

Revelation 2:25.   But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.

     This is the first explicit reference in the seven epistles to the return of Christ.  Although the existing church at Thyatira would not be existing when He returned, as far as they knew at the time.  However, they were certainly expected to be watching for Him – as is true for all churches through the centuries.  Christ’s admonition is directly applicable to all churches with similar problems to those at Thyatira.  And since Christ knows all churches (He is Alpha and Omega), He clearly anticipates here that some Thyatira-like churches will actually be functioning in the world when He finally does return.  Certainly there are many such today.

Revelation 2:26.   And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.

     Immediately after this mention of Christ’s return comes mention of the millennial kingdom which follows His return.  These “overcoming” believers in Thyatira, as in other churches, will thus share Christ’s reign over the nations with those future believers who will be martyred during the reign of the beast which precedes it (Revelation 20:4)

Revelation 2:27.  And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

     The introduction to this letter marks Revelation’s only reference to Christ as the Son of God.  However, there are three references to God as His Father (2:27; 3:5, 21).  The terminology here is clearly taken from Psalm 2:7-9.  There, however, the specific promise is to the Son.  Here the same promise is shared by the Son with his faithful servants.  “The saints shall judge the world” (1 Corinthians 6:2; see also Daniel 7:18, 27).  The “rule” which is to be exercised is actually “tend,” or “feed,” like a shepherd or pastor.  The “rod” with which he rules is the same as the word for “scepter” (Hebrews 1:8).

Revelation 2:28.   And I will give him the morning star.

     Jesus Christ Himself is “the bright and morning star” (Revelation 22:16) so that this promise assures His own presence as a gift to His people.  Perhaps it also refers again to His second coming – this time in its very first aspect, when He comes to catch up into His presence those who believe on Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).

Revelation 2:29.   He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

     This regular exhortation has appeared previously before the promise to the over-comers; in the last four epistles, however, it comes after the promise and concludes the epistle.  There is no obvious reason for this change, but it is also true that each of the last four epistles also contains exhortations concerning the imminent return of Christ.  Thus they seem to represent four types of churches that will be active when Christ comes, perhaps more in need of a final exhortation from the Holy Spirit to be ready than of a promised blessing in the world to come.  

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